How to speed up your metabolism

How to speed up your metabolism

Publication date: 25-09-2023

Updated on: 25-09-2023

Topic: Nutrition

Estimated reading time: 1 min

One of the latest trends is the so-called metabolic diet, which promises to jumpstart or boost metabolism and induce major weight loss in a short time, without affecting lean mass but burning fat. But what does it consist of in practice? And are we sure that this approach is really effective and, above all, does not hurt us? 

We asked Dr. Federica Grandi, a dietitian, and Dr. Laila Pansera, a nutrition biologist from the Center for Eating Disorders and the Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition Service at Policlinico San Pietro. To answer these questions, however, first we need to take a step back and understand what is meant by metabolism.

What is basal metabolic rate?

“The term “basal metabolic rate” refers to the amount of energy (in terms of calories) that the body consumes under resting conditions for vital metabolic functions, such as respiration, circulation, nervous system or digestive system activities,” the two experts note.

Why it varies from person to person?

“Each individual's basal metabolic rate varies according to multiple factors including: 

  • weight and height (thus body surface area);
  • gender;
  • age;
  • body composition. 

Basal energy consumption should then be added by that which comes from the activities that each of us does during the day: sports, walking, type of work activity, etc. In turn, these can affect basal metabolic rate itself. In simple terms, everyone's daily energy expenditure depends on our lifestyle.”

Metabolism, then, also changes in relation to the physiological states of life: “For example, it is normal (but not expected) to find slower metabolisms in individuals over 50, just as it is likely to find a livelier metabolism in individuals who have practiced or engage in sports activities,” they continue.

Too strict diets can lower metabolism

Alternating throughout life with periods of marked caloric restriction (strict diets) can also affect basal metabolic rate, in this case negatively. 

“Our metabolism is a perfect machine: it consumes if it has “energy” to consume, otherwise, under conditions of dietary restriction, it is able to decrease consumption to cope with states of “famine.” 

Thus, it is recurrent to find a reduced basal metabolic rate in people who have undergone major dietary restrictions or continuous attempts at weight loss through the abolition or severe reduction of carbohydrates over a lifetime. 

This is because drastic and highly unbalanced diets, as are all those that promise to lose a lot of weight in a short time, put the body under stress. Initially, the body is hyper-responsive and causes us to lose fat and especially lean mass (i.e., muscle), but then it adapts to this situation by putting itself into energy-saving mode, thus making it difficult not only for further weight loss, but facilitating weight gain (mainly fat mass) when returning to normal habits.”  

Metabolic diet: a double-edged sword

The metabolic diet is based on a drastic reduction in carbohydrates and a large increase in the consumption of fat and protein sources, almost on par with a ketogenic diet, or much like a high-protein diet. 

“Eliminating or drastically reducing carbohydrates, which are the main fuel for the normal functioning of our bodies, as we have seen, offers only ephemeral weight loss benefits. 

Therefore, it does not serve to lose weight in a healthy and lasting way, but rather ends up “consuming” lean mass by further slowing down metabolism.”

How to speed up metabolism?

“The secret to an efficient metabolism that is meet the norm for sex and age which consists of 2 elements: 

  • well-structured physical activity;
  • healthy mediterranean diet, fractionated and well balanced, capable of fully meeting all the body's needs,” suggest Dr. Grandi and Dr. Pansera.

So the green light is given to: 

  • a balanced breakfast;
  • proper hydration;
  • snacks throughout the day;
  • meals consisting of source of carbohydrates, protein, good fats and fiber.  

On the other hand, as far as physical activity is concerned, aerobic activities, such as running or brisk walking, are to be preferred. 

“Maintaining good muscle mass ensures, even in people over 50, an always active metabolism. In those with dietary restrictions (thus more prone to a slowed metabolism), resuming a good diet and incorporating adequate physical activity (relying on professionals) helps restore an adequate basal metabolic rate,” the experts conclude.

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